Local pop-up eatery hit with hygiene order

By Anita Jaynes on 17 April, 2023

A pop-up food stall at the Swindon Designer Outlet has been hit with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order after being found to be using unsafe cooking practices.

During an unannounced visit by the Council’s Environmental Health Team, Dark Bark BBQ LTD, which was operating outside the Outlet, was found to be selling high-risk hot food (including pulled pork, beef brisket and macaroni cheese) that had been reheated using an improvised sous vide machine. 

Swindon Borough Council was not aware this sous vide activity was being carried out by the business. The operation had changed significantly from when the business was inspected in April 2022 and they had failed to notify the Authority of this significant change as required by law. It had also failed to register following its incorporation as a limited company.

This method of cooking sees vacuum sealed plastic pouches cooked at low temperatures for long periods and needs to be carefully controlled.

On inspection, major concerns were raised over the safety of the food products being served to customers. Concerns were also raised over the lack of safety documentation in relation to the operation of the machine.

The machine consisted of a large, uninsulated plastic storage container, with a poorly fitting lid and two thermostatic heating elements. The temperature on the day was below 7°C and the equipment was located on the ground within a gazebo. A specialist commercial unit would consist of a stirrer to ensure the temperature of the water is the same throughout the tank, a properly fitting lid to prevent evaporation and a rack for separation to make sure all the pouches of vacuum packed foods are kept apart and fully submerged in the water to ensure thorough reheating.

The pouches of food being reheated were of differing sizes and weights, meaning they would reheat at different times and there were no procedures in place to show how this was being safely managed. Some of the pouches were also not fully submerged, meaning that the food would take longer to reheat, resulting in the food spending longer in the temperature zone where food poisoning bacteria can multiply.

As a result, the Council’s Environmental Health Team immediately prohibited the process. 

The court has now ratified the decision and granted a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order to stop the business from using this method of processing until the Council’s Environmental Health Team is satisfied they can do it safely.

Swindon Borough Council offer a ‘Build a better food business’ bespoke information service which includes coaching. Health and Safety advice and guidance for Swindon-based businesses can be found here. Click here to visit Wiltshire Council’s food standard safety page for businesses.

Pictured above: The homemade water bath, fashioned from a 51 litre plastic storage container with a poor fitting lid.